Hey! Milwaukee! Put down that Facebook post where you’re either screaming into a echo-chamber void or arguing with some asshole stranger who will never change his or her mind and listen up: You totally get to vote today! Again! Fun!

Yes, today, February 21, finds Wisconsinites voting in a statewide primary election for nonpartisan offices. Two primaries are on Milwaukee ballots: state superintendent, featuring three candidates; and Municipal Court Branch 1, featuring four candidates. (The state superintendent race is particularly important, especially if your Facebook feed went nuclear the day Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education.) The top two candidates in each race will move on to the general election April 4.

Why is it important to vote in this historically low-turnout election? Because change starts at home, because putting the right people in the right positions helps avoid future problems, and because it’s social media law that you cannot piss and moan about politics if you don’t vote. Find your polling place and see a sample ballot here. See what the Shepherd Express thinks here. Get to know the candidates below.

STATE SUPERINTENDENT

Tony Evers

I grew up in small town Plymouth, WI. I worked at a canning factory in high school, put myself through college, and married my kindergarten sweetheart, Kathy—also a teacher.

I’ve been an educator all across Wisconsin,and no matter where I worked, I put kids first. Always. I became a principal in Tomah, was an administrator in Oakfield and Verona, before being elected as your State Superintendent.

I have always tried to find common ground, while holding firm to the values we share.

I am running for re-election as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, because I believe that Wisconsin children deserve a world class education system. A system that is fair and balanced to every child from Antigo to Superior, and Viroqua to Milwaukee. I will continue to stand up for our children, and do what is right for the future of our State no matter their financial circumstance. I will vigorously defend our public schools, so we never pit the haves against the have nots.

Every child in Wisconsin should be a graduate, college and career ready, but I know it requires more to get kids across the finish line. We need teachers who are both inspired and empowered to teach every kid. We need to offer mental health services in our schools and find a way to close achievement gaps. Education is the driving engine of our economy. Education gives kids a ladder of opportunity, and every child, not just some, deserve the resources Wisconsin should invest in them.

This spring, I’m asking for your support to continue as Wisconsin’s State Superintendent.

Please make sure you vote in both the February 21st primary & April 4th general election.

Tony

Lowell Holtz

I am a Wisconsinite, born and raised, and have been married to my high school sweetheart, Sue, since 1980. We have five children who attended both parochial and public schools. Like many of you, we were “choosy” in that regard, always trying to find what’s best for each child. In 2004, Sue and I both earned our Educational Doctorate Degrees in Leadership, Learning and Service, from Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University. Previously, while working on my Masters in Education from UW-Madison, I served as a police officer in Whitewater during my spare time.

My education experience exceeds 30 years and includes teaching at a small parochial school in Minnesota, serving as an elementary and middle school principal in Cambridge, and being honored as a Wisconsin Principal of the Year and National Distinguished Principal in Peshtigo. I have also served as a superintendent or district administrator in the Palmyra-Eagle, Beloit and Whitnall school districts, covering a wide and diverse spectrum of rural, urban and suburban communities.

While serving those schools and districts, I have:

• Raised test scores in all districts and schools served by collaborating with teachers, administrators and parents

• Collaborated with business, industry and community to
– Create a regional, multi-district career and technical education academy
– Launch annual business/education summits
– Create charter schools

• Partnered with a team of parents and community members to build one of the state’s finest high school athletic complexes without raising taxes

• Led successful urban school reform effort, drastically reduced violence, returned control of classroom to teachers, closed achievement gaps and increased graduation rates

• Consistently raised teacher satisfaction, pre- and post-Act 10

• Put systems and teams in place to consistently close gaps by raising academic achievement of all students

John Humphries

Fellow Citizens, Leaders, and Educators:

I believe we can provide every child in our state—from Bayfield to Beloit—an excellent education that prepares them for college, a career, and life. But we cannot provide Wisconsin children with the schools they deserve until we start doing things differently.

The current leadership in Madison has been in place for 16 years. They’ve had the chance to move an entire generation of our students from preschool through high school. Yet for all the promises made, for all the billions spent, for all the arguing on both sides, we are no better off today than we were then. Meanwhile, other states are much better off. By learning from those states and, more importantly, from the great work being done every day by teachers, administrators, and parents in schools across Wisconsin, we can prepare all students for success.

MUNICIPAL JUDGE BRANCH 1

William Crowley

Since graduating from Marquette Law School, William Crowley has demonstrated a commitment to serving marginalized populations in the community. He began working as an attorney with Hudson Legal in 2011, working on a foreclosure review project for JP Morgan Chase Bank. In this job, he worked to ensure compliance with federal and state laws, and identify cases where a non-compliance issue existed, so a settlement could be reached with the owners.

In 2014, William joined the staff at Disability Rights Wisconsin, working as a Family Care and IRIS ombudsman, working with people with disabilities on Wisconsin’s long-term care programs. In this capacity, he has been an advocate for people facing denials or cuts to their essential long-term care related services, conducting investigations, negotiating, and assisting with appeals to the State. Also in this role, he serves on a number of committees, including working with local government and county transit officials on public transportation program implementation for people with disabilities.

Furthermore, since 2012 William has served on the Board of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, most recently as its Affirmative Action Officer, working to cultivate a broad, representative membership on the Board.

William has spent many years as an advocate for people with disabilities. When he was just two years old, he was critically injured in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, killing his stepfather and mother, who was 8 months pregnant at the time. The crash left him paralyzed from the chest down, but did not injure his resolve to carry on with life and strive for success. William will use this determination and ability to persevere to bring about a more just and equitable Milwaukee Municipal Court.

You can often find William venturing to new establishments around town and attending many of our festivals and local events. He is also an avid competitor in one of Milwaukee’s local trivia leagues.

William hopes that you will join him in standing up for justice!

Kail Decker

I began my career in municipal law halfway through my second year in law school when the City of West Allis hired me to prosecute ordinance violations. Under Supreme Court rules, I was able to practice law as a student under the supervision of attorneys. I honed my skills by handling 2,000 cases and conducting 200 trials while still in law school. In fact, I conducted almost every municipal trial that occurred during my year and a half with West Allis. After earning my juris doctor degree from Marquette University Law School in May 2008, I joined the Green Bay City Attorney’s Office as an assistant city attorney only two weeks after my admission to the Wisconsin State Bar.

In Green Bay, I worked on nearly every aspect of law that a municipal attorney could face. I advised every city department, handled open meetings and public records, and practiced in intellectual property, Indian Law, real estate, nuisance abatement, personal injury, and contracts. In addition to that broad range of experience, I also served as the sole city prosecutor for several years and handled over 10,000 cases in that role. Having earned a reputation for municipal law expertise in Brown County, I regularly advised neighboring cities and villages on special issues or acted as a special prosecutor for them.

After over 5.5 years in Titletown, I returned to Milwaukee for an opportunity to serve the city where I began my legal career and take on new challenges. For the past 3 years as a Milwaukee assistant city attorney, I have used the legal knowledge I attained to combat zombie foreclosures, abusers of LLCs, public nuisance properties, dilapidated and dangerous buildings, and bad landlords. My role has expanded to include real estate and defense work, but I still focus primarily on work that improves and helps our most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I have handled some significant cases such as the demolition of the old Solvay Coke buildings (saving the taxpayers $200,000) and the $1.25 million racketeering lawsuit against local landlord Mohammad Choudry.

Even though I have dedicated my career to municipal law since 2006, I also have been a landlord for over 14 years, have purchased 4 houses, earned a pilot’s license, spent almost 1,000 hours completely remodeling my Green Bay home, and had worked 18 different jobs by the time I graduated law school. My experiences outside of municipal law give me a unique perspective that allows me to see many points of view.

I live in a 1920s bungalow on North 57th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood with my lovely fiancée, Brie, and our cat, Kirby.

After over 10 years of municipal work handling over 12,000 cases (including 330 trials) in 10 different municipal courts and over 100 cases at the circuit court level, I am ready to take on the next challenge by serving as a municipal judge.

Valarie Hill

Judge Valarie A. Hill was elected to to the bench in the City of Milwaukee in April 2004. Prior to her election, she served as a Milwaukee County Judicial Court Commissioner, where she presided over thousands of misdemeanor, felony, traffic and small claims cases. Previously, Judge Hill served as a Deputy First Assistant, Senior Assistant and Assistant State Public Defender in the Milwaukee Trial Office where she was a member of the management team and handled thousands of criminal and administrative matters for indigent defendants. Judge Hill graduated from The Ohio State University and the University of Akron School of Law where she received the Black Law Student Association Highest GPA Award. She is a member and/or volunteer for Christ The King Baptist Church, Milwaukee Public Schools, Northcentral Maltese Rescue, American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Girl Scouts, Milwaukee Urban League Guild, NAACP, UNCF, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and The Links, Incorporated. Professionally she is a member of the Wisconsin and National Bar Associations; National Assoociation of Women Judges and the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers (Past President).

Brian Michel

Since graduating from Notre Dame Law School, Brian Michel has dedicated his career to serving the public of Milwaukee. That service began as an Assistant DA with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. In that office, Michel developed the skills necessary for managing a large calendar, learned the inner-workings of the justice system, and became engrossed in the problems facing Milwaukee communities.

After serving with distinction, Michel transitioned to work with the communities, rather than the State. Joining Legal Aid Society in 2013, Michel works a Staff Attorney in the non-profit’s Civil Division. There, he represents low-income Milwaukee residents in various legal matters, such as eviction defense, unemployment appeals, municipal citation defense, and consumer law violations. He has fought for the rights of tenants coerced to live in condemned buildings, returned thousands of wrongfully denied benefits to workers, and stands up for those who go before the municipal court to ensure they receive fair treatment.

In the community, Brian Michel has never lost touch with the challenges of Milwaukee. Attending meetings of the Mental Health Task Force, Community Justice Council, Milwaukee Housing Coalition, Veterans Health Coalition, and the Continuum of Care Committee, Michel has developed an eagle-eye perspective of the state of Milwaukee health services, the available resources, and how access to those services has a substantial impact on municipal court filing rates. Specifically, Michel has participated in a project started in mid-2015 to reform the Milwaukee Municipal Court and improve outcomes at every decision point. As a co-chair of a committee to address how low-income residents are protected and informed of their rights in court, Michel has consistently challenged the court to comply with its obligations under the law.

Brian Michel was trained at Notre Dame to be a “different kind of lawyer.” He joined Legal Aid Society to support their mission to “do all things necessary for the prevention of injustice.” Now, he aims to bring that commitment to justice and progress to the Milwaukee Municipal Court.

Brian lives with his partner, her son, and their two dogs, Norm and Justice. He enjoys cooking; reading about philosophy, history, and legal news; and taking in live music.